Sydney: Dale Steyn believes there are better bowlers in world cricket and it is simply his durability and consistency that have enabled the paceman to rise to the top of the ICC Test bowling rankings. There are many who would disagree with the South African, not least those who have faced his blend of ferocious pace and pinpoint accuracy at the crease and count among his 287 Test victims.
Now part of the most feared pace attack in cricket along with Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, Steyn looked relaxed and confident at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Thursday as he pondered this month's three-Test series against Australia. That this relaxed demeanour was a contrast with his sometimes fiery on-field persona was not lost on the 29 year old.
"Cricket brings out a more aggressive side of me, to be honest," he told reporters with a laugh. "Where else in the world do you get the chance to basically kill someone with two bouncers in an over. Legally. "I think that can bring out the anger in anyone. Off the field I'm pretty chilled, but on it, it's all business."
As one Australian newspaper pointed out this week, Steyn's Test bowling figures (287 wickets in 57 Tests at an average of 23.50) stack up pretty well compared to West Indies great Malcolm Marshall at a similar stage of his career.
Steyn, though, seems genuinely uncomfortable talking about his prolific wicket taking and his reign at the top of the rankings. "In all honesty, there are probably a lot better bowlers than what I am," he said.
"I guess I am just one of the guys that consistently plays for South Africa and has performed well. I think that when (captain) Graeme (Smith) needs a wicket or something like that he hands me the ball and I've been fortunate enough to take the wickets for him. If I'm playing every Test match and I'm taking wickets, those points ranking system is always going to mean that I'm going to be up there. But, like I said, it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm the best or the most skilled bowler in the world."
With Australia sweating over the long-term fitness of young fast-bowling talent Pat Cummins, there was plenty of interest too in how Steyn has managed to stay healthy throughout his eight-year Test career.
"I'm definitely not strong, I'm pretty thin," he laughed, adding: "I've been managed well, the message that's been sent back to our coaches from the trainers has been the right one.
"I've only played a handful of one-day internationals (considering how long I've been playing). So they've managed me very well and I'm stoked about that.
"When I was younger, I probably over-bowled myself. Now, it's about managing myself and knowing that I've got to bowl my best deliveries in the game. You don't see Usain Bolt breaking 100 metre world records during training sessions."
South Africa play a three-day match against Australia A at the SCG starting on Friday. The Test series begins at the Gabba in Brisbane on Friday week before matches at the Adelaide Oval (November 22-26) and the WACA in Perth (November 30-December 4).
Steyn played a key role with both bat and ball to help South Africa clinch the second Test in Melbourne and thus their first ever series victory in Australia four years ago.
They arrive this time fresh, in Test terms, from a series victory in England which put them top of the ICC rankings. "I think that ranking was something that we wanted to achieve for a long time," Steyn said. "But that doesn't mean anything when you go up against any team, they don't play you any different really."